Evil is horrendous.
Evil is fearsome.
Evil is disturbing.
Evil is banal.
such a fantastic, almost romantic, concept, seemingly unimaginable in its most pure form,
that one would never expect it to be, in actuality, commonplace, ordinary to our
Hannah Arendt proposed that evil is just this, that evil is banal.
Her views can
be hard to digest at times, because they are so troubling, but also because they are equally
believable and, to a great extent, proven in the history and circumstances of the trial of
That one man was head of the emigration of the Jewish people in
Germany during World War II, and he ended up being responsible for millions of deaths
by the end of the war.
His is a story of a common man, a business man more or less,
who, through common motives and common sense, perpetrated some of human history’s
most gruesome atrocities.
Eichmann’s particular case was rare, but many of the elements
that made up his life were quite common.
Though I won’t go into any detail concerning
the life of Eichmann, I will, in this paper, tread upon some of the points made by Arendt
in discussing his trial that display her theory on the banality of evil.
Then I will compare
some of her views with those of Nietzsche and discuss which ones are more important.
According to Arendt, evil, defined in a sense as any intended act that is
considered egregiously immoral, can be committed by almost any common person and
even a whole population of like-minded common people.
It is true that evil usually
doesn’t rule a whole population, which is mainly because the law restricts and molds the
Though when law doesn’t have its rightful effect, in cases where
people are given power to make orders that are above it or when the law of the land itself
is immoral, evil can rule the general population.
This usually starts with a few
individuals, tyrants, the ruling elite who, through power, place themselves above the law.